Gospel Book of Emperor Otto III, Reichenau Abbey about 1000

Munich, Bavarian State Library, Clm 4453, fol. 237

The spirituality of the scene, displayed in the small circle of disciples around Jesus, is emphasized by the Reichenau artist by a gleaming gold background which alludes to the enlightenment and the lasting truth of the scene. In the middle, the dominating figure of the Master with his halo and dressed in blue-white and purple is placed in front of the golden area. This is bounded by the fanciful architecture of porphyry columns, which indicate the inside of a house near a town sketched in the top part of the miniature. Obviously, it is a marked location where this scene of great importance and symbolic meaning is placed. Jesus turns to Peter, who is sitting gesticulating at the basin. Teaching and blessing the Master’s long right arm and his long fingers build a powerful and demanding gesture towards Peter’s head below; accompanied by the Master’s suggestive look his gesture seems to force Peter’s imagination to the right path. Peter has just put his left foot into the water basin. In unquestioned devotion Peter stretches his arm towards his Master, ready to receive the blessing bath: “Lord, not my feet only…”.